Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora
<The Shore in Twilight, the Sky in Daybreak>

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


Seishin (Q), the emperorfs residence, was made up of many blocks of buildings centered at the main hall -- Tyouraku Hall (ya). Every palace in every kingdom has its individuality, but the basic structure never changes. Though Seishin was a forbidden place to all officials, Risai was granted the privilege of entering Seishin at Tai. Therefore Risai knew approximately what places within Seishin she was carried through.

Carried by the Daiboku named Koshou on his back, Risai entered Seishin straight from the Forbidden Gate. She passed a couple of buildings here and there, moved along the wide corridors, and was taken to a building directly opposite to a grand tower. Risai recognized this building as located around Kaden (ԓa, lit. the Flower Hall), a hall separated from Tyouraku Hall the emperorfs residence by a garden. The garden that the building faced was huge, and a fence was built across the center to separate the main hall from Kaden. To reach Kaden from the main hall, one needed to circle around the garden.

How long on earth will this take? -- Risai thought desperately. Risai understood that she could not be allowed to set foot on the main hall despite all the kind acceptance. She knew that even her being introduced to this place was an exceptional treatment. However, Risaifs legs were losing power. Even though she was barely able to stand with the support of Koshou, she would fall flat onto the ground any minute.

Perheps noticing so, "how about having a seat?" Koshou invited, but Risai shook her head. She could not afford to be reckless any more. She deeply understood that her appearance was not even close to be acceptable in front of an emperor of a kingdom. Even thought that was unavoidable for Risai, her act of crashing through the Fobidden Gate with all her power already deserved the death penalty. She could not afford to act conceited any more. ? She must not, Risai understood. Unless she kept even the barest minimum solemnity, everything she did so far would turn meaningless.

As she tried her best to step up towards the bed, the minor officer that Koshou sent earlier returned. He and Koshou whispered something into each other's ears -- and at that time Koshou was very close to Risai as he was supporting her body -- Risai was unable to read in their conversation. Her ears had been ringing faintly inside since earlier. The sounds that entered her ears mingled into an unnerving mess, making them all the least comprehensible.

Where on earth is Kei-ou now? Had she left the main hall, or was she changing to formal clothes in order to meet Risai? How long on earth would it take for her to reach here?

As Risai thought with a scotching heart, she noticed Koshou turning his gaze towards the door. On the other side of the widely open door, a group of minor officers and female servants could be seen at the corridor facing the inner garden. The minor officers standing by inside the room opened up a road from the door and gave bows. Seeing that raised a little anticipation within Risai, but there was no sight of any important officials within the approaching group, and the group didnft even look like leading any important officials to the room. The one standing in front of the group and swiftly entered the room was a young girl in ordinary formal clothes commonly seen on other officials. Behind the girl, not even a person resembling a messenger could be found. Clinging her nails on Koshoufs shoulder, Risai again searched at the back of the group.

... oh, my eyes were all fogged.

Risai was using all her power in her left arm to dig her nails into the manfs shoulder, but she felt her knees would give in at any time. How many steps would Kei-ou need to reach this place? It was already not the distance but the number of steps that was competing with time.

... Please, come here!

The young female servant touched Risaifs body with her hands. Risai turned back, and immediately in Risaifs brain etched the servantfs bright green pupils filled with surprise, and her fiery red hair that nearly blinded Risaifs eyes with its bright color.


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